Daily Israel Report

Judaism: Rav Kook: Where is the Document?

I burst out in tears. Tears that released the pain and tension that had accumulated within me, from the horrible events that I had witnessed.
Published: Friday, August 05, 2011 9:51 AM


Where is the Agreement?"


Rabbi Yehoshua Ben-Meir related the following story:

During the Yom Kippur War, I served as an army chaplain in an IDF division in the Golan Heights. It was a terrible war. The battles and the conditions were extraordinarily difficult. Every day we witnessed death before our eyes.

We had been taught in the Mercaz HaRav yeshivah that the redemption is a process, one that grows and advances, progressing from strength to strength. But in this war there was a feeling of retreat. The blow was terrible, the pain was searing. In those trying times, I felt a tremendous need to examine and clarify my beliefs. I needed to understand how this bitter war fit in the process of Israel's redemption.

After two months of fighting at the front, with no showers, in extremely harsh conditions, I received a short leave.

I went straight to Jerusalem. The hour was late, two o'clock in the morning. But I felt an urgent need to speak with the rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook. I decided that I would first go to his house. Hesitantly, I knocked on the door of his apartment on Ovadiah Street. The rabbi peeked through the peephole. He immediately opened the door and said, "Give me the document."

Apparently the rabbi was expecting some document from the army. I was so grimy and dirty, I figured he didn't recognize me.

"Rabbi, it's me, Yehoshua Ben-Meir."

"Yes, yes," Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah responded. "Bring the document."

I had no idea what the rabbi was talking about. He took my hand, led me into his room, and sat me down on a chair. Again he insisted, "Show me the paper."

"Rabbi, it's me, Yehoshua Ben-Meir from the yeshiva."

"Yes, I know. The document. Bring me the document."

I was completely baffled. I still figured that the rabbi did not recognize me because of all the grease and dirt.

"'Rabbi, what document are you talking about?"

"You have an agreement with God how the redemption is supposed to take place. And God changed the agreement. So show me the document. Let us examine what is written there, and we will decide." 

I heard the rabbi's words, and then - for the first time since the war broke out - I burst out in tears. Tears that released the pain and tension that had accumulated within me, from the horrible events that I had witnessed.

I was amazed how quickly the rabbi had understood me. In those few seconds, from when he saw me through the peephole until I entered the room, he had identified my problem and known the solution.

'Did We Not Learn?'

The rabbi sat with me for a long time, maybe two hours. He took down books from the shelves. Before starting to study, he said, "Perhaps you have not learned this. And if you have, perhaps you did not review it. And if you reviewed, perhaps you forgot. Did we not learn..."

The first book he opened was the commentary of thirteenth-century scholar Rabbeinu Bechaye. After God sent Moses to Egypt to redeem the people, matters only got worse. Moses complained to God, "Why have You made it worse for Your people?" (Ex. 5:22)

On this verse, Rabbeinu Bechaye noted that this situation is not unique to the redemption from Egypt. The future redemption will also be accompanied by many difficulties, by times of darkness that will conceal the light of redemption.

The rabbi opened the Maharal and the Kuzari and the Midrash, reviewing with me various sources. After two hours of study, I came out strengthened. I was armed with the spiritual strength to continue.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah had the genius to sense the needs of each student. He could plumb the depths of one's soul and provide the response one needed...

[From Mashmiya Yeshu'ah ('Harbinger of Redemption'), on the life of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook (1891-1982), the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, pp. 357-358]